Dermoid cyst, or teratoma of the ovary

This is a rather common, benign cyst developing in the ovary. It is frequently seen in young women. It usually presents without any symptoms, as an incidental finding in routine ultrasoound. It is not uncommon to see two or three of them, frequently affecting both ovaries.

The picture may appear disturbing as the cyst contains sebum, hair, even teeth – actually the term teratoma originates from the greek word ‘teras’, that is monster, and our greek ladies are obviously alarmed when they hear that a monster develops within their reproductive organs. Different tissues are seen because the tumour originates from primordial embryonic cells, with the capacity to differentiate into various types of tissue.

Alarming though it may seem, these are benign in the vast majority of cases. We need to operate and remove when they grow bigger, thus affecting the blood supply and the function of the ovary, particularly if future fertility is an issue. Furthermore, sudden tumour enlargement or abnormal vascularity may point towards the extremely rare teratocarcinoma. It is therefore important to monitor regularly those cysts and remove them, if indicated.

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